Satan’s hot daughter showed up in my driveway and asked me to take her for a ride.
She had on a sexy red outfit. And her 485 horsepower 6.4 liter Hemi V8’s burble was all the temptation it took to happily hock my soul for eternity …. or at least as long as my license remains valid.
Well, ok, it wasn’t Satan that spawned her.
It was Dodge.
The Challenger R/T – this one with both the Scat Pack (6.4 liter, 485 hp Hemi V8 replaces the regular R/T’s 5.7 liter, 375 hp V8) and the Super Track Pak, which includes sideways burnout-enhancing 3.90 gears in the rear axle, mondo 20-inch wheels and tires, plus the array of “performance reporting” functions – 0-60, 1/8th mile, 1/4 mile, lateral G forces, braking forces – that come standard in the Hellcat… which is her Daddy’s car.
WHAT IT IS
The Challenger is – unlike its rivals – a muscle car.
It is a big car, first of all.
About a foot longer – and several hundred pounds heavier – than either the Chevy Camaro or the Ford Mustang.
Both of which are pony cars.
They are “sporty.”
They have useless back seats and tiny trunks.
They come with four cylinder engines.
They are available as frilly convertibles.
The Dodge comes only as a hard-assed hardtop. It offers no less than a six – and has room for five adults and two more in the trunk.
The Challenger is – let’s not mince words here – a man’s car. The buyer demographics are overwhelmingly so.
It’s the sort of car that excites chicks – but they generally won’t buy one. Which appeals to men who are interested in exciting chicks.
Trust me. The thing works in that department, too.
Base price is$26,995 for the SXT trim – which comes with a 3.6 liter V6 and only with an eight-speed automatic. This is a bit higher than the base price of either the Mustang ($24,145) or the Camaro ($25,700) but you do get more car.
The hot ride, though, is the R/T – which starts out with a 5.7 liter Hemi V8 and your choice of six-speed manual or a heavy-duty version of the eight speed automatic. Base price for this one is $31,995 – less than the Mustang GT ($32,395 to start) and a lot less than Camaro SS ($36,300 to start).
But the brimstone ride is the R/T with the Scat Pack – which gets you the 392 cube, 6.4 liter Hemi and almost 500 hp and almost 500 ft.-lbs. of torque, too. To which you can add a Shaker hood scoop and a Super Track Pak (details follow).
The manual six speed version starts at $37,995 – more than the Camaro SS or the Mustang GT.
But then, you get more car… and more engine.
And more balls, too.
If you need bigger balls, there is the Hellcat version of the Challenger. $62,495 gets you 707 hp and 650 ft.-lbs. of torque. It will leave claw marks up and down your back.
Which isn’t by any means a bad thing.
R/Ts can be ordered with a functional Shaker hood scoop, just like back in the day. It sits on the engine and vibrates with the engine. Hence the name.
You can also order your car painted Plum Crazy purple, too.
Also just like in ’71.
Sidepipe megaphone exhaust tips aren’t available, though. Maybe next year.
Better than drugs – and perfectly legal to own.
Biggest V8 … in the biggest car.
The best of the bunch at reincarnating The Experience.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Use it and you will probably lose it.
Your license, that is.
Driving this car even a few MPH over the PSL is as fraught with peril as attending a social justice rally wearing a Trump! t-shirt.
It’s said that all three of these rides are “retro” but the Dodge is truer to the concept. Both the Chevy Camaro and the Ford Mustang are now available with four cylinder engines – which though powerful engines are questionable as muscle car engines.
The least you can get in a Challenger is a V6.
A pretty big (3.6 liter) V6.
It is almost twice as large as the Camaro’s new (and standard) 2.0 liter four. It also makes more power: 305 hp vs. the Chevy’s 275. However – both the Camro’s four and the Mustang’s optional four (2.3 liters, 310 hp) produce a rip-tide of torque: 320 ft.-lbs. for the Mustang and 284 ft.-lbs. for Camaro vs. 268 ft.-lbs. for the Dodge, which isn’t goosed by a turbocharger – as the other two are.
Still, fours are not sixes and muscle cars do not have fours.
But this review is not about fours, anyhow.
It is about V8s.
Because that is what muscle cars are all about.
The Challenger R/T starts with a 5.7liter, 375 hp version of Chrysler’s “Hemi” V8.
This is the mild Challenger V8.
It’s not as big or as powerful as the Camaro SS’s 6.2 liter, 455 hp V8 or the Mustang GT’s small – but impressively strong – 435 hp 5.0 liter V8.
With the 5.7 V8, the challenger R/T is capable of getting to 60 in the high fives, about a second behind the SS and the GT.
But never underestimate ol’ Scratch.
Sit by the flickering fire and unroll the parchment. Dip the quill in blood and check the Scat Pack option. Now your Challenger will swell with the power of 6.4 liters of V8 and 485 hp – outclassing both the SS and the GT.
And just like that, you are in the mid-fours.
Which, incidentally, is within striking range of the Hellcat’s run. Because the R/T Scat Pack is already on the threshold of more-power-than-you-can-put-down… and the 707 hp Hellcat is a furlong over that line.
Even with 20-inch rubber, there is only so much traction available.
There is a reason why cars with more than 500 hp are – usually – all-wheel-drive.
But 500 hp through two wheels is a lot more fun.
Here’s another measure of the Mopar’s muscle car-ness: Its miles-per-gallon. You know that sticker on the windshield? It ought to read: Who cares?
But Uncle demands the number be named. It is 14 city, 23 highway with the manual and 15 city, 25 highway with the optional eight-speed automatic.
These are actually not half-bad numbers, considering.
For some perspective, consider the Subaru WRX I reviewed about a week ago (see here). It is a compact-sized car that weighs about 700 pounds less than the Dodge and is powered by a 2.0 liter four that makes 268 hp, or 217 fewer hp than the Challenger R/T Scat Pack’s 6.4 liter V8.
Guess what the Subaru’s numbers are?
18 city, 24 highway.
It is nothing short of a meer-ahkul (remember Ernest Angley?) that I am not typing this write-up in jail. Giving anyone a bright red 500 hp muscle car in a world where doing over 80 in most areas constitutes “reckless” driving is… diabolical.
And this car will do 80 without the engine even running.
Well, it feels like it.
Doing the speed limit definitely does not feel right.
Spinning the thing in cul-de-sacs until there’s so much tire smoke inside the car you can’t even tell where you are anymore.
You know you shouldn’t. You know what will probably happen if you do. But you can’t help it; you do it anyway.
She practically begs you to. That look in her eyes… the way she smiles at you. The touch of her hand…
The big Hemi – almost 400 cubes – is a very different engine than its rivals’ engines – especially the Mustang’s engine, which is one whole engine smaller (the difference between 6.4 liters and 5.0 liters; you could power a Civic with the leftover 1.4 liters).
It redlines at 6,100 – fairly low for a V8 today (but typical for the big V8s of yesterday). So it’s not necessary to wind it out to get the tail out. With almost 500 ft.-lbs. of torque and a 3.90 gearseat in the pumpkin (part of the Scat Pak) it doesn’t take much at all.
The thing is so strong, it’s a little dangerous – which is part of the fun.
All that weight… all that power.
Totally unlike the modulated and responsible power delivery of something like the Subaru WRX.
Even with the electronic safety nets of traction control and stability control, you need to respect the Challenger – and be prepared to deal with it. You must learn the art of the muscle car countersteer: Cock the wheel in the direction you want to keep headed as the rear of the car tries to go the other way. When you want to stop going sideways, just ease off the gas a little and the tail will snap back into line.
I rotated the front tires to the back the third day I had the car.
Now, the Camaro and Mustang will lay rubber, too. But the experience is not the same. When the Hemi roars through the Shaker scoop, it is 1971 again, there’s no EPA and Nixon’s not yet in trouble. You’d swear there’s a pair of Carter AFB four barrels under the hood – and forget catalytic converters.
But it’s not just the engine that recreates the past.
It’s the car itself.
Would body panels interchange between this car and a ’71?
They just might.
Well, they sure look like they might.
And not just minor styling stuff like the dead-ringer for ’71 chrome-plated fuel-filler door on the driver’s side rear quarter panel or the matte black trunk spoiler. The car’s entire silhouette is a near-perfect time-travel transposition. From the side or viewed head-on.
The ’71 Challenger was 191.5 inches long overall; this one’s 197.9 inches.
That’s only about six inches less long than a Mercedes S-Class, to give you some sense of scale.
A Mustang is only 188.3 inches long overall. Ditto the new Camaro.
That makes the Challenger about a foot longer than either of its pony car contemporaries.
Which gives it a heavyweight stance they lack – as well as a passenger-viable back seat with 33.1 inches of legroom and 37.1 inches of backseat headroom. The latter especially is – literally – huge vis-a-vis rivals. Mustang’s back seats have just 34.8 inches of headroom. Duck and cover. GM doesn’t even publish Camaro’s backseat legroom/headroom stats.
It’s that bad back there.
Then there’s the trunk.
You – and Satan’s daughter – could both fit in there. Fold the pass-through down and… well…
16.2 cubic feet vs. the Camaro’s pointless 9.1 cubic footer. The Mustang’s better, with 13.5 cubic feet back there.
But don’t try to get in there. Much less do anything in there.
The Challenger’s doors are huge – and the side glass is frameless – another retro touch. Unfortunately, the rear quarter-glass, though it looks like it might, doesn’t go down – as it did in ’71.
These are fixed in place.
It’d be nice if you could roll them down.
And also, see out of them.
The view to the side is badly obscured by the super-tall/anti-whiplash headrests that all new car front seats must have, because of federal fatwa. This is helpful if you get rear-ended, but the occluded view to the side that results makes it more likely you’ll be hit from the side when you pull out blind into traffic. This is not Dodge’s fault.
The dash layout/interior has been criticized for not being as wow as the outside of the car – and I agree. It’s not the same as the Charger’s – but it’s not as much like the original Challenger’s as it ought to have been.
Instead of a rack of analog gauges spread wide across the dashboard – as in the original – you have the main gauge cluster and then a single large (8.4 inch) LCD touchscreen, via which you can call up more gauges (digital ones) than would ever have fit in the dash, physically, if old-school analog gauges had been used.
But which would look better in this car? Feel more right?
But the flip side of this is you get readouts like intake manifold temp as well as a real-time engine dynamometer that shows you the Hemi’s horsepower and torque output as you drive. The Super Track Pak (no “c”) adds “performance reporting functions – 1/8th and 1/4 mile times, 0-60 times (current as well as best) deceleration, and max cornering/ sideways Gs… identical to what comes in the Hellcat.
There is also launch control, which makes near-perfect 1/4 mile and 18th mile runs as easy as standing on the gas and letting the computer manage the fine line between maximum power delivery and available traction.
Unfortunately, there is no pistol grip shifter for the manual six speed. There ought to be.
And the automatic uses a drive-by-wire stubby shifter that doesn’t have the retro look or the tactile feel of the original’s slapstick shifter.
Also, the flat back glass is just dying for a set of black-out louvers.
But these things could be easily addressed.
Pop the hood and you’ll see Hemi Orange engine paint. Just like in ’71.
The headlights may be modern in function – woth LED “halo” surrounds – but they look like sealed beam halogens and are so right for the car.
There is almost nothing wrong with this car.
Except for the times, which make it damned hard to use this car.
It helps if you avoid colors like red … and Plum Crazy.
Stick with silver or black.
My test car – with the Scat Pack and the Super Track Pak stickered for just over $41k. That was with the automatic. If it had been a stick shift car, the sticker would have been under $40k.
That is a not bad deal – assuming it does not include your soul.
Consider that the Hellcat version (reviewed here) stickers for $20k more – and the dealer-gouged price is apt to be much higher due to the car’s exotic allure. But the R/T with the Scat Pack and the Super Track pak is almost the same same car… just 200 hp light.
All it needs is the supercharger and an ECU reflash to make up the difference.
Bet you could do that for a lot less than $20k.
And your insurance man need never know about it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Look, you go the Crossroads… and you wait. Eventually, you will hear the sound of the Hemi in the distance. Then you sign the papers… and you are his.
But it’s worth it.
Every damned second of it.
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[…] the 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T I recently got to test drive (review here) is strikingly similar to its early 1970s analog and not just visually. The layout – big V8, […]
The only thing wrong with this car is that it’s a Dodge. My father has the magnum and it’s borderline a lemon. With Dodges allergy towards inexpensive stick shifts and personal experience, I looked elsewhere for my vehicle.
There is a component with the vintage muscle cars that is lost today. It is the performance dealership. Back in the day, Mr. Norm’s Grand Spaulding Dodge, in Chicago, not only did dyno-tuning for every vehicle sold but ended up creating their own special edition models (Demons. GSS Darts, etc). All of my friends purchased from Norm: Hemi Challengers, Six Pack T/A/s & Coronets. And the stuff, while exotic, was affordable. I remember buying a fully optioned 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 for $2700 at a time when the last year’s inventory of ’69 six Pack Coronets Super Bees were selling for $1600 (still regretting that one).
The Performance dealership ( Grand Spaulding, Berger, Yenko, Nickey, etc) are a thing of the past. I could never figure out why the newer dealers have not used enhanced performance as a way to differentiate and market themselves. Instead they left it to Lingenfelter and Hennessey which require much more of an effort (and cost) to purchase. I remember going to Grand Spaulding Dodge on the weekends just to hang out in the showroom…and they were HAPPY to have us!
Agreed – and, I know why dealers don’t offer such services any longer: EPA (and CARB). The perils of “modifying” or “tampering with” an “emissions controlled vehicles” are simply too great.
I had a newer Challenger, but it was with the first run 5.7’s which had a notorious flaw: Poorly built timing chain tensioner which was prone to failure. Nothing like a chain parting in an interference engine.
Got a new engine put in and it went fine from there (Chrysler paid), but I gave it up years later for practical reasons.
The car is a friggin’ boat. Your description of the size doesn’t begin to detail how large the car feels when you’re in it. And looking out over that massive hood, you do feel like you went back in time some.
And with that trunk it’s the perfect mobsters car. You could definitely load up a few bodies into it.
I miss it, but who knows. Maybe things will work out and I can get a new one on top of the vehicle I have now.
The Challenger in any of the V-8 flavors is my ultimate “practical” dream car. I’ve owned M3s, M5s, and having lived in Germany for 4 years I drove the Nurburgring nearly every weekend of every summer in some type of purpose built track car. Nothing, absolutely nothing, put as big a smile on my face as when I drove my friends Hemi 6 speed Challenger. Maybe I’m an anachronism but something about a big, powerful boulevard bruiser just appeals to me in a way that very few other cars do. I don’t care that the Mustang and Camaro might be faster and certainly more technologically modern. Not everything modern translates to being better; in fact more often thn not that’s not the case.
I have a guy that wants to trade me a 2010 Challenger 5.7 6 speed with roughly 100k miles for my truck. My diesel 12v 98 Dodge will likely give me another 15 problem free years of driving as it only has 85k miles on it…..but the allure of that Challenger actually has me thinking about throwing the utilitarianism of my truck in the woods for that sexy svelte temptress. How well would a front-facing car seat fit in the back of that Challenger?
I feel exactly the same way, Shemp!
This Challenger is so much like my ’70s Trans-Am in so many ways… the feel of it, the way it drives… if only it didn’t have the got-damned air bags! 🙂
I kinda agree, but you have to admit that these new beasts do handle a lot better. In many ways they are the best of both worlds.
I remember building my first 500hp Duster and that thing was scary because it didn’t really handle well enough for that much power. 200mph in it felt like you were floating on thin air with almost no control at all, hold on tight and try to keep it going straight. Great for drag racing but cornering? Forget about it. Same thing for my 76 Firebird, years later I bought a new 87 Camaro and it was a world of difference. Now that 87 Camaro vs the new ones isn’t that much different in handling at all.
Still I think in many ways it was more fun back then.
I think it was more fun back then… couple of reasons why:
We did not live in a police state. Yes, you’d probably get a ticket for doing 80 or 90. But a Hut! hut! hut! “hero” with a flak jacket and a Glock would not be threatening to kill you over it.
The scariness of those old cars was key to the fun. 120 felt crazy fast; today, it feels – yawn – like not very much at all. You really have to be trying to get in trouble in a new performance car. In the old stuff, it was much easier.
Finally, we were young.
A car like the new Challenger – much as I love it – is a middle-aged guy’s car. The original muscle cars were young guys’ cars.
Hope I can get one of these into my garage before they go away for good, and the clock is ticking down fast. With the Dart and 200 going away for good, it will be even harder for Chrysler to be able to produce fun cars like it and the charger, viper etc.
Don’t hold back, Eric. Tell us what you really think!
If only it didn’t have catalytic converters and air bags….
Dumb question – 3.09’s or 3.90’s? I went to the Dodge Web site and tried pricing one, but can’t find a Track Pack option on the manual car, but it comes with 3.09’s. Also, as a side, they are “selling” gas guzzler tax as an “accessory”. I wish that could be a delete option.
My kit says 3.90s with the automatic; I think the 3.90s would be a bit… much! with the manual!
This is what Dodge needed to do in order to attract potential Pony Car buyers. Perhaps not as sophisticated as a Mustang GT. But now, every bit as fast. And a fun quotient that, while different, is at least as high.
I’d have to drive both this and the GT to decide which I’d rather own for daily use. In 20 years, the Challenger surely will command higher bids at classic car auctions. It’s a unique Time Machine. And there’s that “Excite Chick” thing too. Still…not sure which I’d buy.
One way or the other, Dodge is Back In The Game…..Big Time.
I love this car, Mike. As in drooling, can’t-stop-thinking-about-it love… it’s that good… and that bad!
eric, I can see a certain appeal to this car….the same as the original. But the Mustang and Camaro are light years lighter which translate into much faster even with fewer horses.
I always ran SBC’s that would scream pushing light cars, 3400 lbs or less and even a few like the later Z’s that were heavier, but enough power to pull the passenger window away from the body at 70 mph when you pulled a Scotty and gave her all she had.
I can’t count the times I’ve simply left Chargers and Challengers in the dust with their huge engines and no doubt huge power…..but…..when those guys would nearly cry and say “that just can’t be, you can’t make near the power I do”. The truth was though, I could make almost the power they did, never the low end torque, but that’s just a problem off the line and when you get it all wound up and catch the next gear so that low end torque isn’t that big a factor, it’s off to the races and that fast revving engine with a light car is virtually impossible to match with a HEAVY car.
NO doubt this big car is fun but I’ll leave that sucker in the dust after a few curves with either pony car. Weight is a killer.
Yeah, but muscle cars are not primarily about cornering. That is the focus of “sporty” cars – and there are plenty of those. How many real muscle cars are there?
eric, did you read the article from Hot Rod I posted last week? The story of a SS Chevelle that had been sitting since 1980 in a town not far from you. The quarter mile ended at a bridge but the races continued for miles down a twisty road. That’s the way it was in my hometown too. At the end of the quarter we were just getting started. It was that ways in a lot of places I raced too.
I missed it!
And: The Challenger does corner, too. Bee-reeve me (Chinese face) when I tell you – as a guy who has some track time under his belt – that very few non-pro drivers will ever come close to the limits of any of these cars before they reach their own limits as drivers.
The capability of almost any new car is that high.
The flip of this is that a driver who can drive at or near the limits of even a Camry, say, can usually embarrass the Hell out of a guy in a Challenger or Camaro or Mustang… not in a straight line, of course. But in the curves…
I learned some things from Bob Bondurant, suffice to say.
At least Dodge finally figured that out. Back in the day they drove with the panache of a Conestoga wagon, banging, clanking and hunting from side to side, front suspensions making all sorts of racket.
I hung on every word of Bob and many more. I recall back around 35 years ago when everybody got in on the “slam on the brakes to settle it into a curve” kick. Of course the harder you braked the more ground you covered at high speed. I had discovered that in high school. Then there was the old crowd of smooth which seemed to me got you through a curve without having to use up the car and paid out in the long run for racers with reduced tire wear.
Of course those Gates tires they sold at the gin were nothing but grip with their semi-mud outside tread and their super-wide 6.50 X 14’s. Equally good for high speed racing or pulling a cattle trailer through mud puddles.
Even better were the straight front axles on many things and those super-sophisticated shocks on leaf springs. Spinner knobs on steering wheels made them super-fast changing direction. I’d probably have a heart attack riding with the ‘me’ from back then.
I test drove one a while back and no it doesn’t corner as well as the new Camaro but it’s miles ahead in the handling department compared with muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s not even close really.
Great article – though I am more attracted to the Charger. Why can’t the Charger come with a stick?
Short answer –– Blame uncle. (either directly or indirectly)
No manuals to handle that much power.